AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The Amarillo Police Department says phone scams are more prevalent now. In just one month, the APD reports 16 victims being phone scammed out over $180,000. Jeb Hilton with the APD says it's a dollar amount they've never seen.
"That is particularly high. We don't usually see that much of a loss when it comes to these scams," said Hilton. "This is the first time we've seen that much of an amount in a month's period."
Many of the 16 victims who were scammed last month come from a variety of ages.
"Younger people don't have a whole lot of life experience so a lot of times they don't know better," said Hilton. "We get some refugees and other social classes of people that just don't know any different."
The latest scams are coming from people using fake phone numbers -- with some of the more popular scammers posing as members of the IRS, Xcel Energy, Microsoft, Craigslist, and local law enforcement.
"The thing about these phone numbers is that they're spoofed. They're using an app or a machine to cover these numbers," said Hilton.
Hilton says even if you do get a scammed phone call it's important to be well informed.
Here are some tips to aware of:
The Amarillo Police Department will not call to enforce any outstanding IRS taxes. The IRS will never call and demand immediate payment on owed taxes and will always send a letter in the mail before contacting anyone. If you feel like you might owe taxes, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. You can report any attempted scams to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ic3.org.
Xcel Energy will send out a notice through the U.S. mail before your power is shut off. Xcel offers many options for payment. You should be suspicious if the caller is requiring you to use a prepaid debit card or Green Dot card. To check the status of your business account or to report a scam you can contact Xcel Energy's Business Solutions Center at 1-800-481-4700.
There have been cases in the past in which the victim was contacted by a scammer claiming to be with Microsoft. These scammers will contact you by phone or email. They try to trick you in to installing malicious software that can capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They will try to convince you to download software to allow them to take control of your computer remotely. They will request credit card information and bill you for phony services. Do not call any phone number that comes up in an error message on your computer. Microsoft's error and warning messages never include a phone number. Microsoft will never proactively contact you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication with Microsoft must be initiated by you.
We have seen with Craigslist that a buyer will contact you and want to purchase your item. They will send you a check, money order, or a cashier's check for more than the agreed upon price and ask you to cash the check and wire or send back the difference. The payment method that was sent is counterfeit, but will often be cashed by your bank and discovered as a fraud later. It is always preferred that you deal locally with anyone when purchasing or selling online.
A law enforcement agency will not contact you and demand payment over the phone in order to pay a warrant or to bond someone out of jail. None of the law enforcement agencies in Amarillo, Potter County, or Randall County will have a bond company call you or recommend a company for you to use.
If you get a call from a company that just doesn't feel Right -- police recommend you do your own research.
"Just be cautious and don't be afraid to hang up and actually call the company and check into who is calling you," said Hilton.